Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bring on the Boks! But with our injuries, if you're going to the match, bring your boots!

Richardt Strauss (picture

Ireland kick their Autumn internationals off in style with a top clash against the Springboks. This is my favorite match up in all rugby, as I support both teams, but Ireland first.

I’ll start with the Boks, have a look at where they are and what their key weaknesses are.  They had a massive clean out of players due to retirements, loss of players overseas, prison, that sort of thing  They also have a new coach. They still have an absolutely top notch pack, Etzebeth, Kruger and Van der Merwe are all world class locks, their front row is ultra solid, and loose forwards like Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw and Willem Alberts are forces of nature.  Behind them, they have traditionally had very conservative backline play, based on kicking for territory, kick and chase, and kicking for kicking sakes. However, the golden boy of South African kicking has fallen off his perch, Morne Steyn is in the squad but not first choice anymore.  Youngsters Pat Lambie and Elton Jantjes  are likely to feature, and I hope to see a lot of Lambie with his cool head and attacking flair. If he can set off a backline line with players like Pietersen, Hougaard, and De Villiers – we’ll be in trouble. What we need to do is stand up to their physicality, and run at them – any team struggles to cope with confident ball handlers travelling at speed. For the Boks is that the team played together as recently as October. For Ireland is that the Sprinboks have been playing nearly continuously since February, they often stink on their November tour – and also that they don’t see Ireland as a big threat. This is the team.

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.

Where are Ireland in comparison? We have a golden generation of stars now in various states of decrepitude. BOD is world class – when he’s fit an playing, which is getting less less frequent. The same goes for POC, O’Gara seems past his best, D’Arcy plays well in fits and starts, and O’Callagahan peaked about 3 years ago. Add to that some our new stars, Ferris, Kearney and SOB all on the phsio table somewhere – it’s looking tough. And add to the that a coach, who’s lost a decent chunk of his public, and you’d wonder how much of his dressing room. He seems intent on levering in players like Murray and Earls into positions they can’t handle.  Munster is not the powerhouse it used to be, and the bulk of the players should be from Leinster and Ulster.

My starting 15 would be
Earls Bowe Cave D’Arcy Trimble Sexton Reddan Heaslip O’Mahony Henry Ryan Tuohy Healy Strauss Ross

I think we’ve got to look to the future now, give the older players game time when they’re fit – but only off the bench. We’re not going to survive any other way. Looking at my team, I love Earls on the wing and at full back, but not in the centre. I’d start with Strauss because this is South Africa – he’ll be so up for this! And he speaks Afrikaans so he can work their line out calls.

With our key injuries, we can still field a strong team, but probably not with enough game time to have the combinations gelling. I don’t want to see Murray and O’Callaghan starting! I think the Boks are going to beat us.

Ireland: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Iain Henderson, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Fergus McFadden.

Sooo, this is the 15 Declan came up – you and me are going to have words… Earls can’t pass and is a wobbly tackler, which is why I don’t like him at centre. Murray gives the team no tempo, and often passes to isolated players. And Mike McCarthy – is a journeyman lock, I’d rather have seen O’Callaghan in, at least he was once a great lock. We’ll get hockeyed!

Elsewhere – I’m a bit worried for Wales, without Gatland in charge they are not the same time, and the Welsh sides have been pretty dire this year. So I’m going Argentina  after a reasonable showing in the Rugby Championship.

I think the France/ Australia match could be a classic – the Wallabies always manage to punch well above their weight when you look at their player numbers, but France have ridiculous depth at the moment, so I’m going with France.

I’m not too keen on the England team they’ve selected – don’t seem to be taking Fiji too seriously, and the last I saw them play it was draw. Reckon Fiji will win!
Scotland get to tackle the All Blacks. If they get a bit of rain, the Scots area hugely physical team that are hard to put away. And I’d love to see Timbo Visser do some damage! I see a BIG fright for the All Blacks!

Enjoy the rugby!

Saturday , November 10
England vs Fiji 14:30
Wales vs Argentina 14:30
Italy vs Tonga 15:00
Ireland vs South Africa 17:30
France vs Australia 20:00

Sunday , November 11
Scotland vs New Zealand 14:30

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